NBA uniforms have undergone countless transformations throughout the league's history. The jerseys worn in the 1970s were loose-fitting with unique designs inspired by the ABA era, while the ’80s had more of a traditional look as the league’s popularity evolved with stars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan coming into their own. In 1989, Champion became the official uniform supplier and helped kickstart the NBA’s brash era in the ’90s. The cartoonish and fun designs made the NBA a cultural hotbed and a place where basketball and hip-hop intersected. Jordan's reign was at its peak and every kid wanted to emulate the look of his long shorts, stylish sneakers, and the Bulls’ uniform design. In the 2000s, the league went back to its roots, as teams wore uniforms that often paid homage to history, with a few added enhancements, thanks to new technology.
Today, Nike is the official uniform provider and has already made a strong influence on the look of the league's jersey with the introduction of the City Edition uniforms. The approach is to take features of a team’s city and incorporate them into the uniform design—think Prince and his connection with the Timberwolves or the Notorious B.I.G. and the Brooklyn Nets.
With the jersey era back in style, The Crossover staff debated and ranked the 30 best uniforms in NBA history. (All-Star Game uniforms were not considered.) Jerseys were ranked based on aesthetic, creativity, nostalgia and historical importance. Just like with every list on the internet, you will almost certainly disagree with all of our choices. Let's get to the list!
30. Minnesota Timberwolves (1996–2008)
The best jerseys often conjure an image of a specific player, and that’s certainly true for the Timberwolves’ jerseys of the early 2000s. Minnesota’s black jerseys with the green-tree trim immediately bring to mind a snarling Kevin Garnett, sweating with an unmatched intensity as he tried to carry his supporting cast through the Western Conference playoffs. Garnett’s game matched Minnesota’s jerseys, brooding with a jagged edge. It’s a match made in heaven.
The best aspects of the Garnett-era threads are in the details. The green trees lining the outside of the jersey pay tribute to the Minnesota state tree—the Norway pine for all you non-botanists out there—and the sharp “T” and edges of the numbers are reminiscent of an actual wolf. These jerseys don’t have the same flare as some of the others on our list, but they’re thoughtful throughout and bring an extra dose of nostalgia for NBA fans of a certain age. — Michael Shapiro
29. Los Angeles Lakers (1960–1966)
The Lakers are known for their purple and gold color scheme but after moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, the team donned these beautiful blue uniforms for six years. The cursive logo looks great and the team enjoyed plenty of success during their first years in L.A. behind Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, appearing in the NBA Finals every year from 1961–1966. They brought these uniforms back for one night during the Kobe era, but it’s a shame they haven’t been used more. Nike needs to revive them at least once during LeBron’s time in the city. — Jarrel Harris
28. Cleveland Cavaliers, Alternate (2005–10)
Let’s take a trip back in time, shall we? The year is 2009, LeBron James has just led a team who's second-best player is probably Mo Williams to 66 (!) wins. The sun is shining in Cleveland for the first time in a awhile and the first sight you see walking down E. 9th is these beauties? Life is good. In an attempt to jump on the overloaded bandwagon, my parents went out and copped me a LeBron James, No. 23 Cavs 2008–09 alternate and told me to walk around and show some local team pride, which isn’t hard when the jersey is this sick.
There’s so much to love about this jersey. The sharp neckline, the multi-colored blocks that border the entire jersey and that rich shade of navy blue that’s broken up by the white lettering and the gold trim “Cavaliers” in the middle. Then you get to the red side panels that give the whole joint an incredibly distinctive look. Sidenote: They also made surprisingly good kindling for events that took place in 2010. — Kellen Becoats
27. Toronto Raptors, OVO (Present)
While sports teams and rappers have always had distinct, mutually beneficial style relationships, Drake’s black-and-gold foray onto the actual court with his hometown Raptors memorably took things a step further. The brand-focused brand-ness of our current zeitgeist will always leave somewhat of a bitter taste—inspiration can be found in creative places and still cut checks—but it’s hard to deny how effectively Toronto’s OVO look translated onto the floor as the occasional threads during the franchise’s most successful run to date. The gold chevron and “North” label across the chest made hometown pride that much more attractive and striking, even with a side of “please go stream Hotline Bling after the game as many times as possible with your woes.” For better or worse, we’ll remember these, and they may set a precedent: Minnesota’s Purple Rain strips work fine, just no Soundcloud rapper alternates, please. — Jeremy Woo
26. Los Angeles Lakers, Alternate White (2002–18)
You don’t mess with perfection. Odds are that if you close your eyes and try and picture a Lakers jersey, your mind will wander over to two classics: the Sunday Whites of the Black Mamba era or the gold joints that have been ingrained in our collective memory after watching highlight after highlight on SportsCenter growing up. But the Sunday Whites have a special place in my heart. I never grew up rocking with the Lakers, but you can’t tell me watching Kobe eviscerate people in one of the cleanest jerseys ever assembled doesn’t make you contemplate going out to a vintage store and trying to cop one. White jerseys have a tendency to be bland and leave a lot to be desired—that is, unless your team hails from Los Angeles. The Lakers’ gold jerseys may be synonymous with championships but the Sunday Whites will always be the freshest in the league. And it doesn’t hurt when the greatest player of your generation is rocking them at any given time. — Becoats
25. Detroit Pistons (1981–1996)
The simplicity of this classic Pistons jersey is what helped make it so bold. Plenty of teams across sports have red, white and blue in their color schemes, but these Pistons commanded those colors better than just about anybody else ever could. The red lettering and red stripe along the side of the jerseys fits just perfectly with the white outlines resting in the blue. Names and numbers should stick out like a sore thumb, but the calming background makes them loom just enough to be overlooked. Unless they are right up on you.
Think about five defenders engulfing you on a drive through the lane and all of a sudden it feels like there’s a wave washing over you. And all you can make out as this storm swallows you are the numbers and the "Pistons" name staring into your soul. You get a hip check from No. 11. Then you ram into No. 40 and you swear someone stuck a steel beam in the middle of this sea. Somehow you see No. 10 in every direction you look. And before you know it, No. 44 is looking down on you as you fall to the floor and you see a No. 4 racing away in the distance with the ball—and all hopes you had of conquering this swell.
It’s a special type of art that can only be appreciated when it’s moving at full tilt. It’s a standard look that makes you think this jersey could easily just be another drop in the pond, but it has a Detroit stamp of approval that makes it one-of-a-kind. — Khadrice Rollins
24. Detroit Pistons (1996–2001)
The Grant Hill era uniforms are the first Pistons jerseys to actually reference the team’s name. Previous iterations of Detroit jerseys established a color scheme and little else, opting to go with a drab red and blue circle. The new threads brought out the big guns, using each “s” as a de facto exhaust pipe. Add in the flaming horse, and the Pistons made good on the “Motor City” nickname for the first time.
The teal is a welcome break from Detroit’s previous jerseys. Red and blue is classic, sure, but it’s also a crutch. Good on the Pistons for deviating from tradition. It was time to establish a new tradition after the Bad Boys era ended. On a visual note, the red and yellow trim plays well off the teal, and those colors are incorporated greatly in the (semi-intimidating) flaming horse. Hill’s tenure in Detroit ended too soon. The Pistons’ teal jerseys did as well. — Shapiro
23. Minnesota Timberwolves, Prince City Edition (Present)
If you’re going to honor one of the coldest musicians to ever live with a basketball jersey, that jersey needs to be as vibrant as the life that musician lived. You can’t truly encapsulate Prince’s essence in a uniform, but the Minnesota Timberwolves did a damn good job with their City edition uniforms for this season.
From the right shoulder pattern that recognizes the famed jacket Prince performed “Purple Rain” in to the eloquent font that mirrors 1980s Prince, there are many specific elements of the jersey that play up a particular piece of Prince’s puzzle. And this is all before we get to the color scheme.
Purple as the dominant color might have worked, but it could have easily failed, so using it as the secondary color was right the way to go. The decision to go with black as the background instead of white is also key in creating a better looking jersey, and helping to best appropriately create a Prince esthetic. You can’t honestly expect to recreate the aura Prince casts when sitting on that motorcycle in a dark alley on the cover of Purple Rain, but the black base with the purple lettering is the most you can do to help create that vibe.
We will never get to see the legend himself snatch rebounds down like Charles Barkley and cross cats up like Iverson while wearing one of these, but maybe Karl-Anthony Towns will throw down a reverse slam and hang from the rim with one hand and yell, “Game, Blouses!” just one time for all of us. — Rollins
22. Vancouver Grizzlies (1996–2001)
Few positives emerged from the Grizzlies’ short tenure in Vancouver. The team struggled on the court, squandered draft picks and played 62 different players over the course of six seasons. This franchise was so dysfunctional that Steve Francis cried when the Grizzlies selected him at No. 2 in 1999. But where the team did get it right was with its jersey selection. The teal, red and black melded together perfectly, and while the collar and waistband might have been misguided, there’s still a lot to like about the swings taken in Vancouver.
For one, the designers really bought into the bear theme. An entire grizzly sits on the left side of the shorts and the “Grizzlies” logo at the center of the chest is covered with claw marks. The best move made during the construction of these jerseys, though, was the decision to commit to teal throughout. From Detroit to Charlotte, this approach has never failed. Grant Hill and Alonzo Mourning helped make those jerseys memorable. Lovable losers mostly wore the Grizzlies jerseys, and that’s part of the charm. The run in Vancouver might have been short-lived, but the look and logo remain classic long after the Grizzlies’ time in The North. — DeAntae Prince
21. Indiana Pacers (1990–97)
Commonly known as the “Flo-Jo's,” after Olympic sprinter and clothing designer Florence Griffith Joyner, these beauties may have the most complex backstory of any NBA jersey ever. Rebecca Polihronis, an unpaid Pacers intern who had read about Flo-Jo’s designs in Sports Illustrated, created a photo montage of the star's various looks and introduced the idea of her designing Pacers uniforms to the front office. The idea hit. After jokingly promising, “No one-leggers or lace,” Griffith Joyner settled on her final design. Flo-Jo’s famous flair was visible, but toned down to a point where it was in no way over the top.
The jerseys had sharp edges and lines, were asymmetrical with a splash of color that ran from under the armpit all the way down the shorts and also introduced a v-neck collar, longer shorts and a stretchier fabric, all new concepts to NBA jerseys. The jerseys were a hit, and saw a lot of action in the 90s, taking two trips to the Eastern Conference finals and being most famously on display during Reggie Miller’s legendary eight-points-in-nine-seconds performance.
After 18 years in the rafters, the uniforms made a comeback in 2015 as Indiana’s hardwood classic choice, to the delight of Pacers fans everywhere. This jersey checks all the boxes, and a few that no other jersey can. Concept by an intern, design by a gold medal winner? Tough to beat. — Bailey Carlin
20. New York/New Jersey Nets (1972–81)
It’s tough to make a compelling jersey when your namesake is an inanimate object (a net) and your home base (New Jersey) is the less successful sibling (to New York.) After a disappointing start to the franchise’s career in the NBA, the Nets migrated from New York to Jersey in 1977, and with the move, debuted updated threads. The hallmarks remained—the red, white and blue color scheme, the stars and stripes on one side of the jersey—while the wordmarks were changed to reflect the team’s new home.
When you imagine throwback basketball, it’s hard not to picture the jerseys the Nets used to rock. Even in the NBA, they managed to maintain the flair and flashiness of their ABA past. The stars and stripes combo down the side of the uni is something that would be considered a major risk in 2018; instead, it was a standard for the Nets. The jerseys have only grown more special over time, as the franchise rebranded to more subdued colors later in the ‘90s, before going full-on black and white when relocating to Brooklyn. The Nets’ current uniforms have their own unique charm, but the team’s vibrant past deserves more time in the spotlight than it currently enjoys. — Rohan Nadkarni
19. Miami Heat, Vice City (2017–Present)
My god. The only thing these jerseys are missing are a Bacardi sponsorship and a wristband for VIP entry at LIV hanging off the shoulder. (Clearly, I have no idea how people enter the VIP area of nightclubs.) The Heat’s Vice uniforms are a triumph. The white and black versions work equally well. The shades of blue and pink genuinely capture the Miami skyline on a steamy summer night. And the splashy font on the front of the jerseys not only harkens back to the OG Miami Arena, but embodies the slick style associated with South Beach.
These uniforms honestly deserve to be hanging in the Louvre next to the Mona Lisa. They aren’t simply performance wear; they’re art. The Vice unis also fly in the face of the Heat’s image. The Heat are blue-collar, not pastel-collar. But that’s the beauty of Vice, it really is a reflection and product of the city it aims to represent. South Beach is not just speed boats and mojitos, it’s a vibe. The colors, the uniform, the hype videos, they’re honestly all just really damn cool. Few teams could pull off such an extravagant uniform, but the Heat appropriately leaned in to the absurdity of the situation. Any jersey that’s accompanied by Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” and a montage of players mean-mugging in the pouring rain is destined for greatness. — Nadkarni
18. New York Knicks (1997–2001)
These jerseys introduced a color to the Knicks palette that had never been seen before: black. Just like the jerseys the Knicks wore during their 1999 run to the NBA Finals, these uniforms are forever engrained into the memory of Knicks fans after being worn by (Knicks) greats like Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston and Larry Johnson.
Throughout the history of the franchise up until these jerseys, the Knicks had kept things mostly simple: orange, blue and white. The thickness of the numbers changed, they moved things around, but the trio of colors stayed the same. The strong, tougher look the black strip aligned closely with the tough, gritty type of basketball New York was playing at this time. John Starks had gone from grocery store clerk to starting shooting guard, Patrick Ewing was sweating everywhere and swatting everything, and the notorious Latrell Sprewell had just arrived.
A new, bold change was exactly what the Knicks needed, and these jerseys helped to usher in this change. It would be crazy to say that what the players are wearing can change the landscape of franchise, but it was the most success the Knicks had seen in decades and possibly their most aesthetically pleasing jerseys of all time. — Carlin
17. Milwakuee Bucks (2015–Present)
I’m a sucker for jerseys dovetailing with hokey narratives, so I really love what the Bucks have done with their unis since 2015. Simply put, the Bucks grew up. Gone were the big pops of color, replaced instead with clever flourishes. The result is a uniform that’s incredibly clean, and a jersey that—like the ascending product on the court—means business. Milwaukee’s success starts with a great color scheme. The dark green and pleasant cream not only pay homage to Milwaukee’s past, but evoke a fleeting sense of nature. The “Cream City Rainbow” striping on the three main uniforms is a neat touch, a small, blink-and-you-miss-it addition that keeps the jerseys from looking too buttoned up. The Bucks’ shade of blue, which makes brief-but-worthwhile appearances on the jersey, lightens up the mood without being distracting. And Milwaukee’s first City Edition threads, featuring a cream base and striping across the chest, were exquisite.
The current day Bucks are fighting to be recognized as one of the best teams in their conference. They deserve jerseys that live up to that billing. These aren’t your older sibling’s Bucks, known for big-ass deer and Christmas-y colors. This is the new and improved Milwaukee. And as soon as the Bucks walk on the floor, they command respect, because in addition to being a team to be reckoned with, they look the damn part. — Nadkarni
16. Miami Heat (1988–99)
When the numbering on an NBA jersey is notable, it’s almost always a bad sign. These signature Heat uniforms are the exception, with type so literally bold as to define the entire look. That shadow is everything. On the home whites, it separated the Heat from all of the similar color schemes of their era—most notably the Jordan Bulls. On the road, the deep red accents pop when set against black, again making something new of one of the most familiar color combinations in basketball. For my money, though, the star of the set are the red alternates. The black numbering with a white drop shadow against a red background is completely mesmerizing, making for one of the most vivid design elements across the history of NBA jersey design.
Tempting as it must be for the Heat to go all-Vice all the time, these throwbacks deserve some play in the rotation. The nostalgia factor doesn’t hurt; the mid-90s Heat didn’t win a title, but they managed to lock themselves into a perpetual state of rivalry with every other interesting team in their conference. They bludgeoned their way into the enduring basketball consciousness, giving an expansion franchise its ethos. Respect Alonzo Mourning. Respect Tim Hardaway. Respect the drop shadow. — Rob Mahoney
15. San Antonio Spurs (1989–Present)
"If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" should be the official slogan for San Antonio's jerseys—and entire organization, to be honest. The only thing that has been more consistent during the reign of Gregg Popovich—the longest tenured active coach in all U.S. major sports—is the team's jerseys.
The team name written across the chest is a mix of black, white and gray, with the letter "U" having a cowboy boot spur hanging off the bottom. This jersey design has probably been worn by more current and future Hall of Famers than any other, with the likes of David Robinson, Tracy McGrady (yes, that actually happened), Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Steve Kerr, DeMar Derozan (maybe a HOFer?) and Kawhi Leonard all donning the simple design.
If the Spurs were an unimpressive organization, the allure of this jersey would probably be significantly less, but the organization's ability to be great year after year, without major signings and blockbuster trades (at least until this past summer) is perfectly represented by the long-term, low-key and consistent design. This design is the closest thing the NBA has to the classic Yankees jerseys that have been the same forever, with no change in sight. It is tough to argue with greatness, which is exactly, and exclusively, what the Spurs have experienced while wearing these jerseys. — Carlin
14. Phoenix Suns (1992–2000)
At a time when their marquee star was bold and audacious, the Suns had the jerseys to match. Charles Barkley, who started his career with another jersey All-Star in Philly, joined the Suns in the season when this design was introduced, pairing an amazing silhouette with some of the best sneakers Nike has ever produced. No combination outside of Chicago looked better than the purple or black Suns jerseys with the CB 94 ‘Pure Purple’ sneakers. Barkley at his absolute best elevated the look even further. He took the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals and following a path that pitted his team against some of the best looks in league history. Phoenix toppled the well-dressed SuperSonics in the conference finals and advanced to take on Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the in an all-time jersey matchup.
Drop the Barkley storyline and Phoenix’s jerseys still fit the franchise in every way. The Suns picked a purple and orange silhouette that loosely matched the Arizona state colors (maroon and gold) and added a blazing sun that offered a nod to the city’s climate with a basketball that fit cleanly into the pattern. After an impeccable run of decisions, the Suns had to commit a major sin and move away from this design. Predictably, nothing has eclipsed it since. — Prince
13. Atlanta Hawks (1982–92)
My family ventured up to New York City from the Philadelphia area each Christmas, with every trip including a necessary stop at the NBA Store. The highlights include a purple Magic Johnson jersey, the George Gervin replica jersey from his 73-point game in 1978, and a red Dominique Wilkins jersey from this golden era of uniforms. (Hold on, I need a few minutes to watch 'Nique vs. Larry Bird in the fourth quarter of Game 7 in the 1998 Eastern Conference semifinals... OK, whew—what an instant classic.) 'Nique personifies that epic jersey: Smooth as can be, multi-faceted and enduring. Wilkins' 13-straight seasons of scoring 20-plus points per game has somehow fallen criminally under appreciated in NBA lore.
The red, white, and yellow combo is one of the flashier mixtures in NBA history, but the design was sharp enough to pull it off. You can close your eyes and see Spud Webb's self-alley-oop, 360 jam in the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk contest, only just before 'Nique and Michael Jordan's absurd 1988 battle floods your memory. One of the NBA's original franchises, the Hawks jerseys of the ’80s remixed the putrid blue-and-green joints from the ’70s. It's a shame today's Hawks wear those horrific neon-yellow, snakeskin sets. They're dancing on the grave of arguably the best uniform ever. — Jake Fischer
12. Philadelphia 76ers (1997–2009)
The black road jersey was one of the most distinct jerseys in 76ers’ history and a perfect fit for the Allen Iverson era. Maybe it’s the idea of The Answer in the black arm sleeve. Maybe it’s the 76ers’ logo that was unique to this time. Maybe it’s the image of A.I. walking over Tyronn Lue as he proceeded to drop 48 points in the Staples Center in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals. There’s a certain edge that comes with the black Sixers jerseys. You don’t sing “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Sixers” to a squad that wears these unis. Nah, the look is too smooth and too aggressive for catchy jingles.
While the black sets the tone for this jersey’s appeal, it’s the red and gold trim that makes it stand out above others. Philly had a black jersey that cut the gold and placed the red accents elsewhere, and they don’t hit the same way. The smattering of gray and blue in the star and the trail of the ball that creates the underline for Sixers is just enough color to help the jerseys pop but without having too much going on at once. Add in the quality font and you got a jersey that can last forever. — Rollins
11. Seattle Supersonics (1985–95)
Can you ever really divorce the aesthetics of a jersey from the people who wore them? This uniform will forever be the blur of green when Gary Payton was charged to full electricity. It will go down as the last thing Alton Lister saw before Shawn Kemp ended his life. The Sonics themselves were gone too soon, but so was this particular design; the defining look of Seattle basketball didn’t even last a decade before an ill-fated attempt at rebranding took hold, a mistake the franchise tacitly admitted when they later revisited many of these original elements.
One of the best things about these original Sonics duds was their color palette. There’s not much green or yellow in the NBA’s visual diet, and here you have an especially stylish combination of the two. Every design piece is exceedingly simple, and perhaps deceptively so. The typeface is as bland as Arial. The numbers are displayed in the same kind of varsity-style numbering one would find on the most basic rec league jerseys. Yet no other jersey in the sport looks quite like this one, what with its defining arc and front-to-back symmetry. Bring back the Sonics because Seattle is owed, but bring back these jerseys because they’re incredible. — Mahoney
10. Philadelphia 76ers (Present)
A modern basketball classic. The Sixers are a storied franchise nested in a storied city, which lends itself well to this sort of subtle design. “PHILA” works as a jersey front because it carries weight. The red, white, and blue motif plays well because of the city’s role in America’s creation story, which in turn inspired the name of the franchise. There are touches that wouldn’t make sense in any other team’s design—why would any other franchise have seven stars running down one side of the uniform but only six on the other?—but an overall design sensibility that feels timeless.
One could imagine Julius Erving rocking these jerseys just as easily as they could Ben Simmons. All of the best elements from ’80s era set are still in place, but the overall concept has been more fully realized. Keep the tricolor trim, ditch the outlined text; default to blue road jerseys instead of red, a first for the Sixers in their franchise history; complete the look with starred side paneling, giving the jersey a natural frame without overcomplicating things. And perhaps most crucial: put together a team with the potential to carry the banner. A great look could approach jersey immortality if it really means something to have "EMBIID" stitched across the back. — Mahoney
9. Charlotte Hornets (1988–2001)
I'm currently writing this while wearing a black snapback hat, a teal brim jutting out with No. 33 Alonzo Mourning stitched on the side. These jerseys are absolutely iconic, with a color scheme that is nearly synonymous with the 1990s, the premier era of sports apparel. The teal base, the differing-colored pinstripes, the green and purple accents—there's no fresher collection of colors.
The true essence of these jerseys, though, hangs in the memorable characters who wore them: Muggsy Bogues thrived as the shortest player in NBA history; Larry Johnson's acrobatic dunks and dunk contest victory; Alonzo Mourning terrorized the league fresh out of Georgetown, combatting a young Shaquille O'Neil like nobody else could; Dell Curry rained triples from deep beyond the three-point line.
Charlotte won three playoff series in these beauties and made the postseason six out of nine years during its golden stretch. No Eastern Conference power, from Jordan's Bulls to Isaiah's Pistons, to Ewing's Knicks and Shaq's Magic, wanted a piece of Charlotte in the playoffs. For an expansion team to enjoy so much success in its first decade—the Bobcats are quite the foil to this example—while rocking such heat, is one of the more incredible franchise feats in NBA history. — Fischer
8. Toronto Raptors (1995–99)
When you think about NBA jerseys from the 1990s, there is a good chance the Raptors’ cartoonish purple pinstripe jerseys have come to mind. The craziest thing about these uniforms is that that they are among the most debated uniforms in professional sports history—they either rank among the best or worst uniforms.
From a marketing standpoint, the NBA made a brilliant move to give outlandish designs to Canada’s expansion teams. Would fans of the era really tune into a Canadian market? Both the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Raptors underperformed early on, but their uniforms gave fans something to talk about. Minor league baseball teams take the same approach when trying to get fans to get games. The team wore purple and white uniforms with hints of red and the design featured multiple stripes and a velociraptor on the front. It was fun watching Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady dunk on teams while rocking these "Barney" unis. — Harris
7. Orlando Magic (1989–98)
I'm not sure why the Orlando Magic ever got rid of these uniforms in the first place. These jerseys are pure nostalgia for the Shaq and Penny era. The iconic pinstripes with the royal blue, black and white color palette is perfect. The stars on the chest with the words “Orlando” or “Magic” brought a certain flair in a time when uniforms were transitioning into the cartoon age. The jerseys were simple but not over the top. It also didn’t hurt that they had two of the most marketable stars at the time.
The uniforms were worn during the franchises most successful run from 1994–98 when the team made the playoffs three times during the four-season stretch while also reaching the NBA Finals during the 1994–95 season. The team brought the uniforms back for this season to celebrate their 30th anniversary. —Harris
6. Warriors (Present)
As much as the Bulls', Lakers' and Celtics’ respective plots of on-court style have held up over the course of multiple championships and eras, the Warriors’ current uniforms are well-positioned to follow suit. After all, every blue and gold jersey that has draped the shoulders of Bay Area residents, music festival bros and fair-weather fans over the last half-decade will one day become a vintage item.
Someone’s son or daughter will one day discover a white Zaza Pachulia variant at an Oakland rummage sale and rejoice to the tune of thousands of Instagram likes. With great success comes massive sales, mega-exposure, and valuable long-term role-player irony. In all seriousness, for as long as Golden State remains atop the league, the more equity they’ll stake as NBA history and culture evolves. It’s a spin on their classic look, features bold splashes of color and a clean stripe, and should stand the test of time just fine. — Woo
5. Portland Trail Blazers (All)
If the topic is best NBA jerseys, the Blazers are the standard bearers. Blazers jerseys are crisp, distinct, and always a pleasant addition to League Pass at 12:30 a.m. on the East Coast. They work in black, in white, or as a throwback with this old Clyde Drexler jersey. So SI's staff was asked to choose three jerseys for this exercise, and I choose those three Blazers jerseys.
Some of the appeal is ineffable, and that's true of any great design work. If we want to be more specific: the red and black colors in Portland already give the Blazers a higher baseline than most teams enjoy. It's hard to make any red and black uniform that isn't at least above-average. From there, the band across the front adds the proper amount of flair, but that flourish remains understated. The band fits cleanly with the look and doesn't distract anyone. The lettering on the throwbacks is rounded and whimsical and will make you nostalgic about the ’70s and ’80s. The lettering on the modern jerseys is angular and more formal, but probably cooler. The pinwheel logo is its own design success story, but the logo isn't featured on the jerseys.
The jerseys don't need the help. Both the home and away looks will pop every time they are on screen. The black jerseys probably get the lion's share of love, but the white version is among the best in the league in its own right. A few weeks ago the Lakers were wearing their grape cough syrup and black stripe TJ Maxx monstrosities and those crisp white Portland jerseys were all fans had to keep them sane. (These red alternates are pretty fantastic as well.) In the end, Blazers jerseys live at the intersection of cool and traditional. They have been there for almost 50 years. Ask basketball fans to choose a favorite jersey and some will mention the Lakers, others the Celtics, and maybe a few will mention the Sixers or Bulls. Those disagreements are reasonable. All of this is subjective. But if you ever add the Blazers to the conversation, the arguments will usually stop for a minute. No matter who you are or where you're from, everyone can agree that the Blazers jerseys are pretty great. And that's why they're best. — Andrew Sharp
4. Denver Nuggets (1982–1993)
A jersey should be judged largely on two criteria: the aesthetic and the relation to the franchise’s history. On those merits, the Nuggets’ rainbow skyline threads are as good as it gets. Let’s start with the design. The background blue is strong, and the “Nuggets” lettering matches well with the numbers. But those are secondary features to the beautiful rainbow stripes, cutting an eye-popping horizontal streak at the chest. The jagged white mountains create a subtle-yet-pleasing view of the Denver skyline, fading into the background before a second look. In a league too-often content with monochromatic backgrounds, Denver dared to break the mold.
The rainbow throwbacks also pay an appropriate homage to Colorado. The Rocky Mountains dominate Denver’s skyline from any point in the city, and these jerseys draw the eye toward the jagged peaks falling in the orange and red slices of the rainbow. The throwback Nuggets jerseys are inventive, colorful and certainly among the best of all time. — Shapiro
3. Boston Celtics (All years)
When I moved to Boston in 2012, fresh off the Celtics' latest playoff run, the C's championship aura still lingered throughout the city. And even as Danny Ainge sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn that following summer, the franchise's legacy still emanated throughout TD Garden. When you walk through the bowels of the arena, it's essentially a stroll through a time machine, passing images from each of Boston's titles it accumulated from the ’50s all the way into the ’80s. The one common thread? The jerseys. When Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen brought home the Larry O'Brien in ’08, Boston was still donning virtually the exact same legendary uni. That uniformity (pun intended) is rare across any professional organization in any industry, let alone sports. The headers of newspapers have evolved over time. The logos for major music labels get refreshed. Our country's currency gets tweaked nearly every decade. For Boston to experience so much success—wearing the same threads as Bill Russell and Bob Cousy—is unparalleled. The cleanness of the look, the simplicity "CELTICS" across the chest for home games and "BOSTON" for road games, the gorgeous confluence of white and green—these are some of the best jerseys in global sports history. — Fischer
2. Chicago Bulls (1985–Present)
Oftentimes, classic jerseys are only as transcendent as the players who wore them, and as such, the Bulls’ essential red and white numbers haven’t changed since the Michael Jordan era began. It’s their simplicity that has helped make them timeless. Chicago’s block-letter "Bulls" lettering has become iconic—it gently curves over the top of the numbers on the front, works well with the red and white lines and is complimented by a quiet stripe around the collar and shoulders. The team has cycled through black variant jerseys and temporary tweaks, but the basic home and away look has remained. As other teams have experimented over the years, the Chicago style remains disarmingly no-frills, embodying the attitude of the city and standing as a reminder of six championships. The Bulls’ commitment to more than two decades of the same look speaks volumes. — Woo
1. Los Angeles Lakers (1978–99)
When you think about iconic jerseys in professional sports, you conjure images of the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Celtics and of course, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Showtime Lakers with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar saved the NBA from extinction. The league was losing money and the NBA Finals were being run on tape delays until a storied rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers made the league popular again.
The gold tradition started in the late 1960s but it wasn’t until the ’80s when the team made a subtle but iconic touch of modifying the numbers and letters to purple. The white back shadow made the letters and numbers pop in a 3D-like way. The teams won five titles during the gold jersey era, all in the ’80s.
With LeBron James in town now, Nike revealed L.A.’s new threads for the season that pay homage to the classic gold uniforms while offering a few enhancements. These are, without a doubt, the best NBA jerseys in history. — Harris